24th March 2000 at 00:00
What does your car say about you? Dr Peter Marsh, co-director of the social issues research centre in Oxford and author of Driving Passions - The Psychology of the Car, analyses the modes of transport found in school car parks.

"This is a relatively new Mini Cooper, it's not from the original series. But it's still a Mini, so it evokes all that Minis evoke: the new liberated lifestyle of the Sixties.

"The Mini was quite unpopular when it was launched. It was too radical a replacement for the old Morris Minor. People saw it as a box with wheels on each corner. It didn't sell at all well until they started to give them away to people like Peter Sellers and Twiggy to drive around Chelsea in. Now everyone sees them as icons of that time - the Mini, mini-skirts and Carnaby Street.

"The symbolism of the Mini was freedom, style and new affluence. But the Mini Cooper has racing connotations. There was a whole class of racing for Minis and the Mini Cooper - named after Cooper racing - went extremely fast. The stripes on the bonnet were the original go-faster stripes. They're angled so that you get the sense of an arrow going forward. They were allegedly to help the racing driver judge corners, but here they are basically making the point - in case you hadn't noticed - that this is a Mini Cooper and not an ordinary Mini.

"The person who drives this is obviously a bloke . A lot of women will drive Minis but not Mini Coopers. The funny thing about the Mini is that towards the end of its life it had undergone a kind of metamorphosis into the Morris Minor - it was bein driven by district nurses and housewives, not Michael Caine.

"This person is out to make a strong statement. I would say he was probably single and not particularly old.

The imagery of the Mini Cooper is probably reflected in other aspects of his life. The person may be quite sporty and rather macho. He could well be a rugby player, for example, probably in his 30s.

"The fact that it's compact and powerful takes away some of the cute qualities, and that adds to the sensation of speed. If you drive fast in this you really feel it. It's the ultimate freedom speed machine."

The car belongs to Rob Hardman, headteacher of St Patrick's RC primary school, Southampton.

"He got the age wrong - I'm not in my 30s, I'm 52 - but I am a bloke! I am sporty. I used to play rugby but I'm more keen on football now. I encourage sport in the school to the extent that we have a charter mark from the FA - one of the first schools to get one. I keep fit but I wouldn't call myself macho.

"The bit about freedom really strikes home. My kids have grown up and left home so I'm at the stage in my career when I am looking for freedom. In fact, I'm in the process of leaving teaching to start a driving school.

"I'm going to sell the Mini because I don't think it's a very good teaching car. It's quite hard to drive and because it's so low down and small you feel quite vulnerable. So I'll be buying a modern car instead. Something boring like a Fiesta diesel."

Wonder what your means of transport says about you?E-mail your details to: harvey.mcgavin@tes.co.uk

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